Pell Grant

Pell Grant

The Pell Grant program is a type of post-secondary, educational federal grant program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. It is named after U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell and originally known as the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant program. Grants are awarded based on a "financial need" formula determined by the U.S. Congress using criteria submitted through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Pell Grant is covered by legislation titled the Higher Education Act of 1965, Title IV, Part A, Subpart 1; 20 U.S.C. 1070a.

Because of the high levels of need required to obtain a Pell grant, receipt of them is often used by researchers as a proxy for low-income student attendance and to indicate the economic diversity of the student body.

Amount of Grant

Federal budget legislation passed in early 2006 cut the federal financial aid budget by $12.5 billion. While the maximum Pell Grant legislative limit was raised to $5,800 through 2011, maximum Pell grant awards were not funded at this level. The maximum award available to students has been frozen at $4,050 since 2003-04.

For 2006-07, the maximum Pell grant available to students remains $4,050. Students with less need will receive smaller amounts. Grant moneys can be used for tuition, fees, and educational expenses (such as textbooks or required materials for a class).

For the award year of 2007-2008 the maximum Pell Grant Award is $4,310. The maximum award for the 2008-09 award year (July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009) is $4,731. The maximum can change each award year and depends on program funding. The maximum grant is to increase to $5,400 by 2012.

Due to high increases in the cost of post-secondary education and slow or no growth in the Pell grant program, the value of Pell grants has eroded significantly over time. In 2005-06, the maximum Pell grant covered one-third of the yearly cost of higher education at a public four-year institution; twenty years ago, it covered 60% of a student's cost of attendance.


Pell has been criticized for using a student's personal and financial information that is submitted on the Student Aid Report (SAR) even though the student never actually used any Pell funds. If a student submitted a SAR before a semester began, then paid tuition with other funds, and did not use any Pell Grant, then technically none of the private information contained in the SAR has any relevance to any course or grade taken or earned by that student to Pell at all. Pell is entirely uninvolved in that student's educational pursuits, and Pell has no input into that student's education or post-graduation career.

It is similar to the old census fears, that personal information could be misused by the agency conducting the census. Pell denies that any misuse actually occurs due to questions asked on the SARs.

A common pitfall of the Pell grant's methodology is that adults are often not eligible if they worked full time and made money before starting school.

External links

* [ Department of Education - Pell Grant Program]
* [ "Federal Pell Grants" at Student Aid on the Web]
* [ FAFSA on the Web]
* [ Pell grants frequently asked questions]

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